The use of video surveillance is becoming more prevalent and more accessible due to new technologies reducing the costs involved and making storage/administration of video images easier. Because it’s easy and cheap to install video surveillance in your workplace you might be tempted to do so, but it’s not as simple as putting some cameras up – there are important factors to consider if you want to avoid getting into hot water legally.
Do you need it?
There is no doubt that CCTV surveillance in your workplace involves a degree of intrusion – it involves recording the normal day-to-day activities of your employees and anyone else entering your workplace, so the first thing to do is consider whether you actually need one at all. Consider what business problem you are trying to solve through use of CCTV and whether surveillance of this nature is justified or whether an alternative, less intrusive arrangement would meet the need.
If you do really need CCTV, think about whether it could be only used in targeted areas. Cameras should be sited and their use restricted so that they do not unnecessarily record images in areas where privacy might be expected (toilets being the obvious example).
Administering the CCTV system
When installing a system you also need to consider what happens to the information it will be gathering. Consider factors such as who will be able to access the recordings, and under what circumstances images may be disclosed or used.
Recorded material needs to be stored in an appropriate way so that the rights of the individuals being monitored are protected and that the information being obtained can be used for the correct purpose. The storage must be suitably secure.
You should also consider carefully the viewing of ‘live’ material displayed on a monitor. Only those authorised to view live images should be able to do so, and monitors should not be visible to others unless it displays something already visible in location of the monitor itself.
Retention of recorded material
The realities of storage limitations mean it is unlikely you’ll be able to store CCTV recorded images for long periods. But actually this shouldn’t be the main factor to consider when determining how long to keep your footage.
One of the key principles of the Data Protection Act is that information should not be retained longer than is necessary. The purpose for which you are recording images will make a difference as to how long you need to keep them, but you should retain information obtained through CCTV recordings for the shortest period you can while still achieving the purpose the system was installed for.
Audio or not?
Audio recording will usually be more intrusive than recording that is purely visual, so you should choose a system without this facility if possible, or disable the facility unless you have very robust evidence that sound recording is absolutely essential to meet your needs, and there is no other available solution.
If you do consider that audio recording is justified, you should ensure employees (and anyone else who may be monitored by the system) is fully aware that both audio and visual recording are taking place.
As with any other form of employee monitoring, you must ensure employees are aware that the CCTV cameras are there, and have clearly understood their purpose, how long the information will be kept for and how the system will be handled/kept secure.
Covert monitoring (carried out in such a way that the subject/s of the monitoring are unaware of it) is not usually justified and should not be considered other than in exceptional circumstances, such as where there is reason to believe there is criminal activity or equivalent malpractice and notifying individuals of the monitoring would impede detection or prevention of the activity.
If you do feel covert monitoring is justified, you should limit it as far as possible, for example use it as part of a targeted investigation for a limited timeframe, and not in places where workers can expect privacy.
If you already operate a CCTV system which covers your employees, or are considering installing a system, contact us for more guidance on how to use it safely.